LOS ANGELES — Long before the era of Brangelina, TMZ and around-the-clock celebrity obsession, Eddie Fisher had a leading role in arguably the most explosive sex scandal of Hollywood's golden age.
He was a music superstar and household name to millions of teenage girls who adored his crooning love songs. He was married to Debbie Reynolds – a megawatt movie star in her own right and the star of "Singin' in the Rain." They had a daughter Carrie who would one day go on to fame of her own.
Then Fisher left Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor, and what resulted was a scandal that left no doubt about America's love of a good-old-fashioned Hollywood romance story. The affair became a national obsession – and an early forerunner of the scandals that are now so common in the current celebrity-crazed world.
Fisher died Wednesday night at the age of 82 of complications from hip surgery, and he was remembered as much for his musical triumphs as his romances with Reynolds and Taylor.
Fisher sold millions of records in the early 1950s with 32 hit songs including "Any Time," "Oh, My Pa-pa," "Wish You Were Here," "Lady of Spain" and "Count Your Blessings." His romantic messages resonated with young girls in the pre-Elvis period.
Fisher's fame was enhanced by his 1955 marriage to Reynolds, and they quickly became known as "America's favorite couple." Four years later, Fisher divorced Reynolds and married Taylor amid one sensational headline after another.
He was Taylor's fourth husband, and the marriage lasted only five years. She fell in love with co-star Richard Burton during the Rome filming of "Cleopatra," divorced Fisher and married Burton in one of the great entertainment world scandals of the 20th century.
An example of the obsession over the affair came in 1964 when Taylor and Burton arrived at the Los Angeles airport to what AP movie writer Bob Thomas described as a "seething, shouting, throng of newsmen." Taylor was trying to divorce Fisher at the time, and the two camps were exchanging a war of words in the media in what Thomas called "filmdom's most famous – and lengthiest – love epic."
Fisher's career never recovered from the notoriety. He married actress Connie Stevens, and they had two daughters. Another divorce followed. He married twice more.
"The world lost a true America icon," Fisher's family said in a statement. "One of the greatest voices of the century passed away. He was an extraordinary talent and a true mensch."
"He was loved & will be missed by his four children as well as his six grandchildren," Carrie Fisher said on her Twitter account.
Carrie Fisher became a film star herself in the first three "Star Wars" films as Princess Leia, and later as a best-selling author of "Postcards From the Edge" and other books.
Edwin Jack Fisher was born Aug. 10, 1928, in Philadelphia, one of seven children of a Jewish grocer. At 15 he was singing on Philadelphia radio.
After moving to New York, Fisher was adopted as a protege by comedian Eddie Cantor, who helped the young singer become a star in radio, television and records.
Fisher had legions of teenage fans. Publicist-manager Milton Blackstone helped the publicity by hiring girls to scream and swoon at Fisher's appearances.
After getting out of the Army in 1953 following a two-year hitch, hit records, his own TV show and the headlined marriage to Reynolds made Fisher a top star. The couple costarred in a 1956 romantic comedy, "Bundle of Joy," that capitalized on their own parenthood.
In 1960 he played a role in "Butterfield 8," for which Taylor won an Academy Award. But that film marked the end of his movie career.
After being discarded by Taylor, Fisher became the butt of comedians' jokes. He began relying on drugs to get through performances, and his bookings dwindled. He later said he had made and spent $20 million during his heyday, and much of it went to gambling and drugs.
In 1983, Fisher attempted a full-scale comeback. But his old fans had been turned off by the scandals, and the tour was unsuccessful.
He had added to his notoriety that year with an autobiography, "Eddie: My Life, My Loves." Of his first three marriages, he wrote he had been bullied into marriage with Reynolds, whom he didn't know well; became nursemaid as well as husband to Taylor; and was reluctant to marry Connie Stevens but she was pregnant and he "did the proper thing."
Another autobiography, "Been There, Done That," published in 1999, was even more searing. He called Reynolds "self-centered, totally driven, insecure, untruthful, phony." He claimed he abandoned his career during the Taylor marriage because he was too busy taking her to emergency rooms and cleaning up after her pets, children and servants. Both ex-wives were furious, and Carrie Fisher threatened to change her name to Reynolds.
At 47, Fisher married a 21-year-old beauty queen, Terry Richard. The marriage ended after 10 months. His fifth marriage, to Betty Lin, a Chinese-born businesswoman, lasted longer than any of the others. Fisher had two children with Reynolds: Carrie and Todd; and two girls with Stevens: Joely and Tricia.
Associated Press Writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles contributed to this report.